Student Feature – Whitney Rucker

Whitney RuckerWhitney Rucker

M.S. Civil Engineering

EDC Certificate Completion: May 2015

Undergraduate: Colorado School of Mines, B.S. Mechanical Engineering

What are your hobbies outside of academic life?

I love to travel. Seeing new places, meeting new people, and experiencing new cultures is one of the greatest thrills in life. I also love to go scuba diving. Unfortunately there aren’t many places around Colorado to scuba, which just means that I have to travel (bummer… ;)) to do it. In the winter one of my favorite activities is snowboarding… you can’t beat being in the Colorado mountains!!

How did you become interested in global development?

During my time at Colorado School of Mines I had the awesome opportunity through my sorority to travel to El Salvador and work on some development projects. Project FIAT, the organization I went with, did an amazing job of having the volunteers work on the construction projects while also experiencing the culture and meeting the amazing people in the villages where the work was being done. It was such an awesome experience that I went back 3 months later and brought some other friends with me.

Why did you join the EDC program?

Once I graduated with my degree in Mechanical Engineering, I started working full-time. While I enjoy the company that I work for and the people that I work with, it just felt like something was missing. The projects that I was working on didn’t feel like they had as much of a purpose or impact as the projects I had spent a very brief time working on in El Salvador. After learning about the EDC program at CU Boulder, I felt like I could use the skills that I have from my degrees to impact lives around me and really make a difference.

What has been the most valuable thing you’ve learned from the EDC program?

As an engineer, it’s hard for me to accept that sometimes there is no right answer. During my first couple courses in the EDC program, I was introduced to many topics that impact projects while working in developing communities, such as religion, culture, politics, corruption, gender issues, etc. The “human” aspect of the project frequently changes the entire scope and has to be taken into account in order to implement something that actually benefits the community.

Where did you complete your practicum?

I spent 6 weeks working with Build Change in West Sumatra, Indonesia. While there, I was working on a new program called Better Building Materials. The goal of this program is to start at the beginning of the supply chain process of bricks and work with the brickmakers to build stronger bricks. The program was in the beginning phases and was working on research about the current processes used to build the bricks as well as setting up testing for the bricks throughout the project. During my time there, I worked with the Program Engineer to set up compression testing through a local university, tensile testing in the lab at the office, and come up with a field test that could be used by the BC staff, brickmakers, suppliers, and homeowners to determine whether the bricks met the minimum strength in the Indonesian building code.

What do you hope to do after completing your EDC certificate?

After completing my degree and the EDC certificate, I hope to get a job in development working in a structural or civil engineer role. I would love a job that I can work on design of a project and then travel to the field for implementation.

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